Is Your Storm Shelter Safe?

Is Your Storm Shelter Safe?

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Tornado season is upon us and Miller & Johnson is working to protect consumers from fly-by-night installation companies who popped up in the aftermath of May 2013, and who have been taking advantage of Oklahomans ever since.  The firm recently settled a case against F5 Storm Shelters after a review of their customer service and installation practices.  F5 Storm Shelters in Oklahoma City, and all tornado shelter installation companies, are required to follow the building codes of the local cities in which they works.  These rules are in place to protect consumers and ensure sound, quality construction.  Here are a few questions you might ask before purchasing an in-ground storm shelter:
 
•  What does FEMA require? Not all shelters are created equally. Get a certified shelter, not a knock-off. Beware of fly-by-night companies!
•  What does the municipal building code require? Tornado shelter plans must be submitted to local municipalities for approval. Make sure the approved plan is the one actually implemented.
•  What kind of “fill” will be used?  Many companies only use earthen fill, which may not be heavy enough to “sink” the shelter upon installation and/or prevent “flotation” later. If a shelter “floats” it may not provide adequate protection in a storm, and may actually damage your foundation. Concrete fill is generally preferred by engineers to prevent flotation. And, premixed concrete is more consistent than “fill” that is mixed in the hole.
•  Does the shelter company do its own installation? If something goes wrong, a third party contractor may be hard to track down or hold liable. Any installer should be licensed and bonded.
•  What kind of warranty is offered? Ask about the warranty (and any exceptions) before you build. Also, consider whether the company will be around to honor the warranty.
 
If you already have a tornado shelter, look for signs of damage such as water seepage, cracks in the floor where the shelter is installed, and “popping up.”   If you are at all concerned about the state of your foundation, call your tornado shelter company and/or installer before the next tornado warning.  If you need legal advice or assistance, call Miller & Johnson.